The main cemetery in Budapest is called Kerepesi and is not a touristic destination at all but it should be.
It doesn’t host the Western icons like the ones in Paris neither attract crowds to its funeral ceremonies like New Orleans’. But for those who know a little more deep the history of the country, literature and its culture, this is a very interesting place to visit.
In the first place is the lay out. The cemetery is like a huge garden, with wide main avenues, green areas and roundabouts like the one who host the poet and revolutionary Mór Jókai (1825-1904), who also is famous after the best bean soup in Hungary (Jókai bableves). It seems a real park and one can walk in its quietness for hours. It is a place that besides the busy city outside brings you peace.
The variety of styles of the graves and some interesting statues, testimony the wealthy times, the vast variety of architectural trends and also celebrate national heroes with stone. My favorite place is the ÁRKÁDSOR (built btwn 1904-1908) – two buildings with big columns and a wide avenue between them where you can find interesting statues and monuments there. Inside you can find also beautiful mosaics. In this area were buried at the beginning of the century XX rich middle class family members and professionals as scientists, historians, restaurant owners, physicians, physics, manufacture owners, etc. These section ends in one of the most beautiful graves of the park: the actress Blaha Lujza.
Some graves are as big as a church or a house to honor their guests. The most interesting in this sense are the grand mausoleums of Lajos Batthyány (1807-1849), Deák Ferenc (1803-1876), Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894). They were built at the end of the century XIX and early XX. All of the 3 were important opponents of the Habsburgs and took important roles into the Revolution of 1848 for the Hungarian independence. Thanks to them and others allies, Hungary declared a local government against the will of the Habsburgs who didn’t recognize them as governors. The government last few months and Batthyány was executed by a court decision and Kossuth was a fugitive living in several countries until his death in Italy.
Also there are parts dedicated to families, like to one of Petofi Family, or graves of important Hungarian artists like Mihaly Munkacsy (painter), Béla Balázs (writer, film aesthete), Miklós Barabás (painter) and Jenő Barcsay (painter) and Mihály Vörösmarty (poet). This side of the cemetery is more remote and calm in comparison to the other side, but not less interesting.
The labor monument mausoleum build in 1958 by the communists is less interesting in my opinion, but it has its value in terms of history and architecture due the contrast to all the other mausoleums listed above. It is cold and with simple shapes, but monumental, like all the other statues and buildings from that time. Personally, I don’t like this style and the way they represent the power of the State – specially in a cemetery.
The most interesting part in my opinion and the last to be mentioned here is the honor to the heroes of the 1956’s revolution. This short period during the communist time when the students and workers tried to become free of the Russians and nominated a new governor: Nagy Imre. There are so many stones listing the name of the people who died fighting for the freedom, their profession and age. It is impressive and touching. I don’t know if Nagy Imre (1896 – 1958) is buried there, but I found Janos Kadar (1912 – 1989), the soviet ally who replaced Imre after the bloody Soviet take over.
I am sure not everybody here knew all this people I just mentioned and they were really important icons for Hungary and/or within the Austrian-Hungarian Empire which was the most important in Europe along centuries and centuries.
When I returned from this visit, I told my Hungarian neighbor about the excursion to the cemetery. I said I had been to a cemetery before in Buenos Aires and Paris. Then he said he didn’t like Paris’, for him Moscow’s was the most interesting ever, full of famous people, artists, politicians, celebrities. I put myself listing how many people I would be able to recognize in a Russian cemetery and ashamed I conclude very few. Maybe I am not the best example, but I am telling this just to point out the unfamiliar between the Eastern and Western cultures are still big even so many years after the cold war.
This is the reason why I spend my time reading and writing about them to try to link the dots!